Community Connections: Speakers

Below are the speakers and panelists for the Community Connections forum in Houston on September 26, 2015. We are grateful to each of them for sharing their expertise and commitment to stronger scientist/community partnerships at this event.

Robert Bullard

Dean, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University

Dr. Robert D. Bullard is the dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. He is often described as the father of environmental justice.

Professor Bullard is the author of 18 books and has served as an expert witness and technical advisor on hundreds of civil rights lawsuits and disputes over the past three decades. In 1990, he was the first environmental justice scholar to receive the National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Award in Science for “Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class and Environmental Quality.” He was featured in the July 2007 CNN People You Should Know feature “Bullard: Green Issue is Black and White.” In 2010, The Grio named him one of the “100 Black History Makers in the Making” and Planet Harmony named him one of “Ten African American Green Heroes.” In 2012, he was featured in Welcomebooks’ Everyday Heroes: 50 Americans Changing the World One Nonprofit at a Time by Katrina Fried. In 2013, he was honored with the Sierra Club John Muir Award, the first African American to win the award. In 2014, the Sierra Club named its new Environmental Justice Award after Dr. Bullard. And in 2015, he received the Iowa State University Alumni Merit Award—also given to George Washington Carver (1894 ISU alum) in 1937. His latest books include Race, Place and Environmental Justice After Hurricane Katrina: Struggles to Reclaim, Rebuild, and Revitalize New Orleans and the Gulf Coast (Westview Press, 2009), Environmental Health and Racial Equality in the United States: Strategies for Building Just, Sustainable and Livable Communities (American Public Health Association Press, 2011), and The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities (New York University Press, 2012).

Michael Burns

Senior Advisor to the Regional Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency Region 4

Michael W. Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for most of his life. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy and spent eight years in the Navy as an engineering officer, visiting more than 10 different foreign countries. Upon leaving the Navy, he spent four years in the private sector as a plant engineer for two different companies, and returned to federal service as a civilian marine chemist. Over the last 20-plus years in the federal government, Mr. Burns has been a supervisor of environmental engineers, a chief of facilities for the Southeast Region of the National Park Service, a director of Regional Public Works, deputy director of base operations for the Army Reserve, and an executive director for the Southeast Region of the U.S. Navy. Mr. Burns is currently a senior advisor to the regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, where he manages the College/Underserved Community Partnership Program, which he created in 2011. 

Mr. Burns is married to the former Vera Gordon, and has one son, TuRae, who is a successful stand-up comedian. He also has five wonderful grandchildren.

Kirsten Valentine Cadieux

Director of Environmental Studies and Sustainability, Hamline University

Kirsten Valentine Cadieux explores social and spatial relationships related to landscape and food production. Using art and social science approaches to society-environment relations and specifically the political ecology and moral economy of agrifood systems, she builds publicly engaged participatory research processes for people to learn about differing ways of understanding environments, and to practice performing and justifying environmental and food system interventions in collaborative ways. Her writing and teaching focus on how social and environmental practices build a basis for how people negotiate their aspirations for equitable, healthy, and interesting food systems and residential landscapes.

Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva

Raúl Grijalva began his career in public service as a community organizer in Tucson, Arizona. Four decades later, he continues to be an advocate for those in need and a voice for the constituents of his home community. From 1974 to 1986, Raúl served on the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, including six years as chairman. In 1988, he was elected to the Pima County Board of Supervisors, where he served for the next 15 years, chairing the board for two of those years. Raúl resigned his seat on the Board of Supervisors in 2002 to seek office in Arizona's newly created Seventh Congressional District. Despite a nine-candidate primary and the challenge of being outspent three-to-one by his closest competitor, Raúl was elected with a 20-point victory, thanks to a diverse coalition of supporters that led the largest volunteer-driven election effort in Arizona.

Throughout his career, Raúl has always fought for underrepresented voices. The passions that drove him as a school board member to fight for and succeed at implementing bilingual education in Arizona are the same passions that motivated him to help pass the first bond package containing a $10 million commitment to reinvest in older, poorer neighborhoods while he was a county supervisor. Likewise, they are what drive him today as he fights to reform our broken immigration system, ensure livable wages for American workers, and create vital land protections to safeguard our nation's natural treasures for the next generation.

In 2014, Raúl was elected ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee by his Democratic colleagues on the committee. He also serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and is a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as a long-standing member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Winifred Hamilton

Director, Environmental Health Service, Baylor College of Medicine

Dr. Hamilton is director of the Environmental Health Service at Baylor College of Medicine, and has received numerous awards for her work in environmental health, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Environmental Health Champion Award. She has a particular interest in the use of geospatial modeling to assess hot spots of disproportionate exposure and/or health effects, and in the education of health care professionals with regard to the importance of environmental exposures in their practices. In 2014, the Environmental Health Service expanded into clinical care, opening the first-ever academically grounded environmental health clinics in the multistate area.

Hilton Kelley

Founder and CEO, Community In-power & Development Association Inc. (CIDA)

Hilton Kelley is a leading figure in the battle for environmental justice on the Texas Gulf Coast, as he fights for communities living in the shadow of polluting industries. Mr. Kelley is originally from and currently lives in the refinery and chemical manufacturing town of Port Arthur, Texas. In addition to being a community organizer, Mr. Kelley is an electrician and former second class petty officer in the U.S. Navy. After the Navy, Mr. Kelley remained in California where he worked as a youth activist and was recognized for his youth anti-gang violence efforts and acting ability. He was admitted to the Screen Actors Guild in 1991. Mr. Kelley moved back to Port Arthur in order to help rebuild and save the community from which he came. Pollution, neglect, and deep despair had taken a heavy toll on Port Arthur. In response, Mr. Kelley organized CIDA and began to challenge the regulatory agencies and their policies, and the environmental violations of the plants that loom over the community. CIDA collects scientific data about the sources, types, and amounts of pollution emitted by polluting neighbors and educates residents of Port Arthur (who are overwhelmingly low-income individuals and people of color) about the toxic burden they shoulder.

Kelley has testified before the Texas legislature and the U.S. Senate, addressed UNESCO in Paris, and met President Obama at the White House. He received the 2003 Environmental Justice Award from the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, the 2004 Ben & Jerry Award for Environmental Activism, and the North America 2011 Goldman Prize.

Neal Lane

Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute, former Science Advisor to President Clinton

Dr. Neal Lane is the senior fellow in science and technology policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and holds the titles of Malcolm Gillis university professor emeritus and professor of physics and astronomy emeritus at Rice University. Prior to returning to Rice University in January 2001, Dr. Lane served in the Bill Clinton administration as assistant to the president for science and technology and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (1998–2001), and before that as director of the National Science Foundation (1993–1998).

He was Rice’s provost and professor of physics prior to his time in Washington. He has also served as chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (1984–1986). He received his BS (1960), MS (1962), and PhD (1964) in physics from the University of Oklahoma.

Lane is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been awarded more than a dozen honorary degrees and received several other honors including, in 2009, the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal, the American Institute of Physics K.T. Compton Medal for Leadership in Physics, and the Association of Rice Alumni Gold Medal for service to Rice University. In 2011 he received the Distinguished Friend of Science Award from the Southeastern Universities Research Association. In 2013 he received the Vannevar Bush Award from the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board. He belongs to a number of professional associations and serves on several boards and advisory committees.

Irma R. Muñoz

Founder and President, Mujeres de la Tierra

Irma R. Muñoz is the founder and president of Mujeres de la Tierra, an avant-garde environmental nonprofit focused on healing La Madre Tierra and redefining the traditional “green” dialogue in Los Angeles, California. 

Irma firmly believes in the power of one and that community action starts with individual participation. She believes that the families and residents of the neighborhood should have the power and right to lead/own their issues and determine what’s best for them, their families, and their community. She currently serves on the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Board of Directors as an appointee of the mayor of Los Angeles and is a governor’s appointee to the Los Angeles County Regional Water Quality Control Board. She lives next to the largest urban oil field in the country (Inglewood Oil Field) and is actively engaged on the issues.

She has held many positions in the public sector and the position she is most proud of is being a presidential appointee with the Clinton administration serving in Washington, DC, with the U.S. Small Business Administration. She earned her BA from the University of California–San Diego and herJD from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California.

Rajul Pandya

Director, AGU Thriving Earth Exchange

Dr. Rajul (Raj) Pandya is the director of the American Geophysical Union’s Thriving Earth Exchange, which connects scientists, communities, and sponsors and helps them work together to develop solutions that have local impact and global implications. The Thriving Earth Exchange advances co-created citizen science by providing tools to design and launch projects.

Prior to working with the AGU, Raj worked as the director of education and outreach at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Raj has been lucky enough to lead internships and mentor students, teach in college and high school, do research with communities internationally and in the United States, and work on digital libraries. He has published in areas including thunderstorms, student learning, workforce development, diversity in science, citizen science, and how weather influences the spread of meningitis. 

Raj believes that science has an important role to play in making the planet a better place for all people and all beings. To do that, he thinks we’ve got to move way beyond the standard practice of doing science and then telling people about it. "We’ve got to do more listening, more including people in designing and carrying out science, and we’ve got to get better at respectfully connecting science with other ways of knowing." Raj also firmly believes that diversity enhances science, "but only when diverse questions and approaches are as welcome as diverse backgrounds.”

Juan Parras

Director, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS) 

Juan Parras has been organizing environmental justice communities since the signing of executive order 12898 in 1994. Juan was an original member of the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, and has served on many other boards such as the Gulf Restoration Network, National Childhood Lead Prevention Program, and the Center for Health and Environmental Justice. He is currently an environmental justice ambassador for the Gulf of Mexico Alliance. Juan received the CEC Synergy Award in 2008 and the Sealy Center for Environmental Health & Medicine HERO Award in 2009.

Kathleen Rest

Executive Director, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

As executive director of UCS, Dr. Rest manages the organization’s day-to-day affairs, supervising all program departments on issues ranging from climate change to global security. Dr. Rest came to UCS from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she was the deputy director for programs.

Prior to her work with the federal government, Dr. Rest was an associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and an adjunct associate professor at the University of Massachusetts School of Public Health. She has extensive experience as a researcher and advisor on occupational and environmental health issues in countries such as Canada, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Dr. Rest was a founding member of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics, and has also served as the chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health. Dr. Rest earned her doctorate in health policy from Boston University and her master’s degree in public administration, with a focus on health services, from the University of Arizona.

Brenda Reyes

Chief, Bureau of Community and Children’s Environmental Health, Houston Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Reyes is chief of the Houston Department of Health and Human Services’ Bureau of Community and Children’s Environmental Health, and an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. As the director of the Texas Healthy Homes Training Center, she has provided education and training to more than 1,000 Houston citizens on the principles of healthy homes (how to reduce environmental hazards—lead, asthma triggers, pests, moisture, mold, unintentional injuries, and others—in the home environment). As a member of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Children’s Health Environmental Protection Advisory Committee she provides recommendations to the EPA administrator of actions the committee considers the EPA should follow to secure the health and well-being of children at a national and global level. Dr. Reyes is an ex-member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention and during her tenure was part of the effort that changed the definition of elevated blood lead level and adopted the 5 ug/dL reference value. She is a board member of the National Grantees Association (providing support, guidance, and communication to/from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to grantees and vice versa), co-chair of Houston Healthy Homes Coalition, a mentor of several lead programs nationwide, and speaker for federal, academic, and nonprofit organizations.

Under her leadership the Houston Department of Health and Human Services is moving toward the Healthy Homes holistic approach, cutting costs and adding value with an efficient delivery of services to citizens in the home environment and creating the perfect platform for healthy housing in Houston.

Andrew A. Rosenberg

Director, Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Dr. Rosenberg is the author of scores of peer-reviewed studies and reports on fisheries and ocean management, and has published on the intersection between science and policy making. Dr. Rosenberg came to UCS from Conservation International, where he served for two years as the organization’s senior vice president for science and knowledge. Previously, he served as the northeast regional administrator (and, later, the deputy director) of the National Marine Fisheries Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Dr. Rosenberg is the convening lead author of the oceans chapter of the U.S. Climate Impacts Advisory Panel, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences’ Ocean Studies Board and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy. He is also a professor of natural resources and the environment at the University of New Hampshire, where he previously served as dean of the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture. Dr. Rosenberg received his PhD in biology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, and previously studied oceanography at Oregon State University and fisheries biology at the University of Massachusetts.

Adrian Shelley

Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Adrian Shelley is a native Texan from the city of Houston. He attended Trinity University in San Antonio, where he graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English and philosophy. He earned his JD from the University of Texas School of Law. Adrian was president of the Environmental Law Society and an editor of the Texas Environmental Law Journal. He also served on the University of Texas Environmental Law Clinic, where he conducted research for a Clean Air Act citizen suit. Adrian is a two-time recipient of the Texas Legal Fellowship, a recipient of the Joe R. and Teresa L. Long Legal Fellowship, and a recipient of the University Co-op Public Interest Award for Graduating Students.

Adrian is the executive director of Air Alliance Houston, the Houston region’s clean air and public health nonprofit. Adrian joined Air Alliance Houston in 2010 as a community outreach coordinator. He previously served as environmental director and counsel for State Representative Jessica Farrar during the 82nd session of the Texas legislature and as an environmental attorney working on Clean Air Act issues. In 2010, Adrian completed a legal fellowship with Air Alliance Houston, conducting research on flexible air permits at several Texas refineries. 

Jalonne L. White-Newsome

Director of Federal Policy, WE ACT for Environmental Justice

Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome is the director of federal policy for WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT), a 27-year-old community-based environmental justice (EJ) organization headquartered in Harlem, New York. Jalonne was selected to lead its new Washington, DC-based federal policy office in 2012, where she engages in federal-level advocacy and education to ensure the concerns and perspectives of low-income communities and communities of color are considered in congressional and administrative federal actions. Jalonne brings her extensive experience from industry, state government, and academia to help inform her policy work that spans many areas, with a particular emphasis on climate change and air policy. She coordinates a national coalition of 41 community-based EJ organizations called the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change (or EJ Forum), a group of grassroots advocates who have become a strong voice for bringing equity concerns into federal policy. 

Prior to joining WE ACT, Jalonne was the inaugural climate and health post-doctoral fellow with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Her research and advocacy build on her dissertation work in Detroit, Michigan, which focused on climate, air policy, and community-level adaptation to extreme heat events, particularly for vulnerable populations. Jalonne is also an adjunct professor at Kettering University (Flint, Michigan), and a professorial lecturer at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Jalonne has been appointed to serve in the following leadership roles: co-chair of the Urban Air Toxics Workgroup for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee, board member for Prince William County Wetlands Board, and, most recently, the board of the US Climate Action Network.

A proud native Detroiter, Jalonne holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Southern Methodist University, and a PhD in environmental health sciences from the University Of Michigan School Of Public Health. Jalonne is a sought-after speaker and featured author for emPower magazine. Outside of work, Jalonne is a wife and a proud mother of two. She enjoys being a Girl Scout troop leader and Sunday school teacher, and encouraging young women to engage in math and science. She currently resides in northern Virginia.

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